This rich and comforting Old-Fashioned Beef Barley Stew is the ultimate comfort food. A combination of tender beef, hearty barley, and vibrant veggies are all elevated by a splash of robust red wine and slow-cooked to add the perfect depth of flavor.
This stew is ideal for casual family dinners, game days, or those chilly nights when a bowl of warmth and flavor is just what you crave!
Lately, I don’t have much time to cook. The days seem to go by so quickly. Even when I’m not working, there is always something to be done around the house, some errand to go to, or some appointment. Of course, this leaves little time for cooking during the week.
I’m happy to report that this beef barley stew was a big winner in our house this week. I made a lot, and the leftovers were gone within one day. That’s always a good indicator!
Why You’ll LOVE This Soup!
This beef barley stew is the perfect one-pot meal with the ideal blend of tender beef, plump barley, and fresh vegetables.
The extended, gentle cooking enhances the depth of flavor and tenderizes the meat – similar to the long, slow cooking of our authentic Italian braciole).
Adding red wine to deglaze the pan enhances flavor by infusing it with complex, aromatic notes. It also helps to release the browned bits of meat and vegetables after sautéing. The brown bits of food on the bottom of the pot are called fond. Fond enhances the flavor of any dish.
This stew often tastes even more amazing the next day as the flavors meld. So, you’ll have a delicious meal ready for a quick and easy lunch or dinner option.
Beef (Chuck Roast or similar cut): Buying precut beef cubes is a big time saver. Precut beef stew meat or cubes are sometimes large, so consider cutting them into smaller pieces.
Barley: Be sure not to use instant barley, which will not hold up to the low and slow cooking method. Pearled or hulled barley are needed.
Red Wine (optional): This is highly recommended since it adds depth and a subtle fruity note. The red wine also is used for deglazing and capturing all the flavors from the pot. You can also deglaze the pan with a bit of beef stock.
How to Make (Step by Step)
Step 1: To prepare this beef stew, start by patting the beef cubes dry. Then, season them with salt and pepper. Then, in a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Sear the beef cubes until they’re browned on all sides.
Step 2: You may need to do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. When it’s finished, please set the beef aside.
Removing beef from pot after browning.
Deglazing sautéed vegetables with red wine.
Step 3: Next, sauté onions, carrots, and celery in the same pot until they soften, which should take about 4 or 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. Deglaze the pot by adding red wine and scraping up the flavorful bits from the bottom, letting the wine reduce by half. You can also add a few tablespoons of tomato paste and cook/stir until it has deepened in color.
Step 4: Return the seared beef to the pot and add diced tomatoes, beef broth, barley, bay leaves, and thyme—season with more salt and pepper.
Step 5: Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and let it cook for approximately 1-1.5 hours, adjusting the time depending on the type of barley used, until the beef and barley become tender.
Add beef and remaining ingredients back to the pot.
Bring mixture to boil and cook for 1 to 1.5 hours.
Step 6: Before serving, remove the bay leaves and any rosemary sprig, adjust the seasonings as needed (I sometimes add a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce), and garnish with fresh parsley. This hearty beef stew is ready to enjoy! Serve with plenty of bread.
Tips for Making
Brown the Meat: Browning the meat first adds depth and richness to the flavor.
Start with a Solid Base: Use homemade stock or broth whenever possible. It’s richer and more flavorful than store-bought versions. If using store-bought broth, choose low-sodium so you can control the salt level
Sauté Vegetables: Don’t skimp or skip the sautéing of the vegetables (ie, onions, garlic, carrots, and celery (often called a mirepoix) as this step releases their flavors and forms the foundation of many soups.
Season Gradually Add herbs and spices in stages. Start with a base layer, let it simmer, then adjust as needed.
Simmer Slowly: Let the soup simmer gently rather than boiling vigorously. This ensures the meat becomes tender and the flavors meld together.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, the barley is typically added uncooked and the cooking process lends a thickness to the stew that often is more pronounced the day after it is cooked.
Beef and barley soup/stew benefits greatly from aromatics like onions, as well as acids like red wine or tomatoes and tomato paste, which add a bright note. Cooking long and slow also deepens the flavor.
There is no need to soak the barley before adding it to beef barley stew as the soup cooks long and low, ensuring that the barley it perfectly cooked.
In cooking, “fond” refers to the browned bits of food that stick to the bottom of a pan when ingredients like meat are seared or sautéed. These bits are rich in flavor due to the Maillard reaction and can enhance dishes significantly. To utilize fond, chefs often deglaze the pan by adding liquid, such as wine or broth, and scraping up the browned bits, creating a flavorful base for sauces, soups, and gravies.
Pearl barley is processed to remove the outer husk, while hulled barley retains the bran layer and germ. Pearl barley is softer and milder in flavor, while hulled barley is chewier and more nutritious.
Pearl barley cooks faster (25-30 minutes) than hulled barley (40-50 minutes). Other barley varieties include barley grits, barley flakes, and barley flour.
More Soups and Stew
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Old Fashioned Beef Barley Stew
- 2 tablespoons oil divided
- 2 pounds beef (cubed and no larger than 3/4 inch) See Note 1
- 1 teaspoon salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to taste
- 1 cup onion diced
- 3 stalks celery sliced
- 2 large carrots sliced or diced (or the equivalent in sliced baby carrots)
- 2 cloves garlic smashed and minced
- 1/2 cup red wine or 3 ounces tomato paste (See Note 2)
- 1 cup diced tomatos canned is fine
- 6 cups beef broth up to 8 cups or more (see Note 3)
- 1 cup barley hulled or pearl (uncooked); don't use instant
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 springs fresh herbs thyme and rosemary suggested; or 1/2 teaspoon dried (see Note 4)
- fresh parsley garnish
- Worcestershire sauce a few splashes (optional for more flavor)
- Pat beef cubes dry and season with salt and pepper.
- In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef cubes and sear/brown on all sides. Do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan if necessary. Remove beef and set aside.
- Add more oil if needed in the same pot and sauté the onions, carrots, and celery until softened (about 4 or 5 minutes). Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.
- Deglaze the pot with the red wine, scraping up the flavorful bits from the bottom. Continue heating until the wine is reduced by half.
- Return the beef to the pot. Add the diced tomatoes, beef broth, barley, bay leaves, and thyme/rosemary—season with salt and pepper.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let it simmer for about 1-1.5 hours (less if you used pearl barley; longer if you used hulled barley), or until the beef and barley are tender.
- Adjust seasonings, remove bay leaves and herb sprigs, and serve hot. Garnish with fresh parsley. Add a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce if desired.